Healthy Habits 2013 - Habit #1: Sleep

So this year, 2013, I thought I'd use the Healthy Habits posts to highlight one healthy habit each week.  Each of these things are things that I am going to be working on myself as we go through the year, and I thought I'd share them with you as we go along. Enjoy!

So here we are:

Habit #1: Sleep

There have been several studies out recently (and not so recently) about the importance of sleep in our life. 

Lack of sleep contributes to overeating and weight gain, heart disease, high cholesterol and blood pressure, decrease in mental ability, and a whole host of other things as well.  Sleepy driving is actually worse than distracted driving for causing accidents and fatalities, with some estimates putting that number as twice as high. 

How many times do we skimp on sleep because it doesn't seem as essential?  Or we have a new baby in the house or sick children and are up all night or most of the night?  So we medicate ourselves on caffeine or exercise or food to get through the day.  And often creating a cycle that perpetuates itself.

How do we give sleep the importance it needs?  By making it a priority.

Most of us need 7-9 hours of sleep a night.

How can we get that? 

That's the tough part isn't it.  On an ideal night I need 7-8 hours.  That's when I'm healthy and things are going well.  When I'm sick it's 9 or 10 hours. 

Here are some things that help us make that sleep the priority it needs to be:

* Figure out what time you need to go to bed.  I get up at 530am so I need to be in bed sleeping by 1030pm to get 7 hours of sleep.  I target my sleep time to 10pm so I get 7 1/2 most nights.  If I'm tired or sick I go to bed by 9 or 930pm.  On rare occasion I even follow the kids to bed at 830pm (only when I'm really sick). Tuck yourself in earlier if you were up late the night before or take a short nap during the day.  And give yourself some grace when things get left undone.

* Keep your bedroom free of distractions.  Remove the TV, the computer, etc. if possible or put them in a cabinet with a door you can close.  If your spouse "needs" the TV, computer, etc. invest in some eye shades or convince them to move the TV into another room and watch it in there instead.   Invest in some blackout curtains if you have a lot of light coming in and a white noise machine or fan or even earplugs if you have a lot of excess noise around.  Remove the clutter and "stuff" so that you can relax and get to sleep without the million distractions.

* Turn off your electronics!   At least 1 hour before bedtime. Yep, you read that right and if you're like me, this is the hard one.  I want to check that email right before bed one more time. However, the light from most electronics mimics sunlight and triggers our bodies' wake-up response.  Turn off the electronics at least 1 hour before bedtime and allow your body to slow down.

* Keep it a comfortable temperature.  Our body temperature drops at night.  Many of us like to be "toasty warm" but that can actually interfere with sleep.  Find the right temperature for you and maintain that.  If your spouse likes it warm and you like it cold, buy them some warm pajamas and put an extra blanket on their side of the bed only or vice versa.  Turn down your thermostat if you need to - we keep ours at 60F overnight in the winter and 80F in the summer.  We have  down comforter for winter and a lighter cotton blanket for summer.  Our sleepwear changes with the seasons too - fleece or flannel for winter, light cotton for summer.

* Don't eat or drink right before bedtime.  Either of these can cause you to wake in the middle of the night with bladder or digestive track needs that must be attended to.  Leave off the food and drink early enough in the evening so that your body can process without waking you up in the middle of the night.

I'm hoping to practice all of these good sleep practices this month, the month of January, so that by the time February rolls around and the rush of the spring semester is in full swing these things are a habit.

What are you planning on doing to make sleep a priority in your life?  I'd love to hear!


  1. Hey, I liked your post about sleep. This is something I'm really working on. I'm so much more productive in the mornings than the evenings, that I made my goal this year to start getting up at 4 AM and going to bed at 8. It's been a bit hard to go to bed at 8 so far, but it's getting better (the more tired I get from getting up early!), and the getting up at 4 AM part is getting better. Keeping the room cool really helps my husband and I sleep. I'm cold when I get up but I bundle up until it warms up. :) But you're right, setting the specific hours I needed to sleep was key.

  2. Thanks Jamie!

    Wow - 4am! I'm a morning person but that sounds soooo early! Good for you for picking a time that works for you!

    Best wishes for getting to bed and up on time. Keep me posted, will you? I'd love to hear how you're doing.



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